Launching “Building with Nature”
January 26, 2017
Great Crested Newt by Phillip Precey
Great crested newt season is upon us!
March 23, 2017

Bird Nesting Season and Vegetation Clearance

Despite this less than pleasant weather, evidence of Spring is beginning to emerge.  Snowdrops, daffodils and celandine are already flowering and magpies and crows are carrying oversized sticks to add to their nests for the coming breeding season.

Yes, bird breeding season has ‘officially’ (arbitrarily) begun as of the 1st of March.

As a reminder, all wild birds are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA) 1981 as amended, including their nests and eggs.  Specifically, this means it is unlawful to intentionally or recklessly:

  • Kill, injure or take any wild bird;
  • Take, damage, destroy, obstruct or otherwise interfere with the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built;
  • Take or destroy the egg of any wild bird;
  • Disturb any species listed under Schedule 1 of the act whilst at the nest site, or while building the nest; and
  • Disturb the dependent young of any species listed under Schedule 1.

Therefore, if you know a bird’s nest is active it must be left alone.  Additionally, there are three other key points. They are:

  1. Should you remove vegetation without checking if an active bird’s nest is present and that bird’s nest is then destroyed, this is classed as reckless and constitutes an offence.
  2. Protection of an area begins as soon as a bird carries and places the first twig.
  3. Seeing adult nesting behaviour, such as carrying nest material or food items in or out of vegetation, or regularly alarming when danger is perceived nearby is indicative of a nest being present, even if it can’t be seen, and is therefore protected.

These general points are a good guide, but species ecology must also be considered.  For example, male wrens will often build up to six nests to try and woo a female to see which one she likes best, each of which is protected until it is proven to be inactive.

For species listed under Schedule 1 of the WCA such as barn owl or kingfisher, they are afforded additional protection from disturbance.  This very much depends on the species, but it is always recommended that the Precautionary Principle is applied unless there is overwhelming evidence to override it.  Again, knowledge of species ecology is important as the young of several species are reliant on adults after fledging.

The overriding message of this note is to plan de-vegetation, ground preparation or construction well in advance so that risks to project progress from nesting birds can be mitigated, if not entirely negated.  This will save money, time and prevent any unintended illegal wrongdoing.